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Tesla Swings to Loss in 4Q, Says Model 3 on Target

Unable to string together profitable quarters, electric car and solar cell maker Tesla Inc. reported a loss for the last three months of 2016.

Tesla posted its first profit in three years in last year's third quarter and had predicted net income in the fourth quarter. Instead, the company lost $121.3 million, or 78 cents per share, for the quarter. Still, that was less than half the $320.4 million loss from the year-earlier quarter.

Without one-time items, Tesla lost 69 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet predicted a loss of 53 cents per share. Revenue rose 88 percent to $2.28 billion, beating estimates of $2.22 billion.

Tesla's shares rose 1.6 percent in after-hours trading Wednesday to $277.90. They have jumped more than 50 percent since early December.

The company, which is based in Palo Alto, California, said Wednesday that it expects to start making its $35,000 Model 3 [pictured above] in July, with higher-volume production by September. That's consistent with previous guidance that Model 3 deliveries would start in the second half of this year.

CEO Elon Musk said the company will produce 5,000 cars per week this year when Model 3 production gets into full swing. The Model 3, he said, is a much simpler car that will be easier to make than Tesla's current models, the S sedan and X SUV.

The Model 3 has one touch screen instead of two, less wiring, and it has conventional doors instead of winged doors of the Model X. More of the Model 3's production also will be automated.

"We also understand manufacturing a lot better than we did in the past," Musk said on a conference call.

He conceded that delays are possible, especially if something goes wrong with even a small number of parts suppliers. Analysts have been critical of the company for previous delays.

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